The opening…

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The opening and first two days of the Botanical Art Expo at Claregalway Castle were very successful, with a huge attendance. Holding an art exhibition at the immensely popular Galway Garden Festival at Claregalway Castle gave us the advantage of a very large footfall at the beginning of the exhibition. The weather was better than recent days – a little showery on Saturday, but plenty of sunshine on Sunday. The crowds at the festival were even bigger than last year and there was a wonderful atmosphere, with music, superb speakers, delicious food and lots more, all against the colourful backdrop of all the plant stands on one side and the beautifully restored castle on the other. Late on Sunday, I had the pleasure of showing TV gardening personality, designer and author, Diarmuid Gavin, and his lovely wife and daughter around the art exhibition. Diarmuid was one of the speakers at the Garden Festival.

On Saturday, I once more had the opportunity to listen to a talk by Dr Matthew Jebb, Director of the Botanical Garden at Glasnevin in Dublin. Dr Jebb is a superb speaker and one is always sorry when his talk comes to an end. He spoke about ‘hardwoods’ and ‘softwoods’, which perhaps doesn’t sound particularly scintillating, but Dr Jebb made it fascinating and very informative.

I also managed to get to the talk by Joy Larkcom, and how glad I am that I had the chance to listen to her talk about her life and the amazing work she has done in bringing so many new vegetables into common usage in Britain and Ireland. She is a most charming and unassuming lady, full of sparkle and enthusiasm, and I felt very honoured to be able to meet her. She and her equally charming husband, Don, now live in West Cork, where they have developed a marvellous garden despite the exposed coastal environment in which they live. Her latest book, ‘Just Vegetating, A Memoir‘ is a fantastic read – I bought a copy and then found myself staying up till the early hours reading it.

Getting back to the opening of the art exhibition, the speaker at the opening was author and art critic, Vera Ryan. She spoke so eloquently and with such feeling about the place of botanical art in the context of the art world in general, and graciously mentioned all the artists and their work in detail. It was a great pleasure to meet her and to listen to her – can’t help wishing that I could have had some one like her as my art history instructor in art college!

The standard of work in the exhibition is very high – with a wonderful variety of styles and media. The exhibition is divided between two rooms, with the larger focusing on botanical art illustration – ‘the area in which art and science meet’ – with the work of artists Grania Langrishe, Yanny Petter, Susan Sex, Sabine Springer, Lynne Stringer and myself. The other room featured the much-admired pastel artwork of Gordon D’Arcy and the stunning tree ‘portraits’ of Anne Towers, both of whom are residents of the west of Ireland. The entire exhibition is, we believe, is a new departure for Galway, where one seldom has the opportunity to view an exhibition devoted to botanical art. Hopefully this will start a new tradition, with the Botanical Art Expo becoming a regular feature of the annual Galway Garden Festival.

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